|They say that my love is wrong|
The material played by these lineups was all cover tunes. No Grateful Dead originals were performed and none of the later JGB original material had yet been debuted. I plan on adding a lot more detail about each song: who it’s by, links to the original version etc. I have that stuff about half done, we’ll see if I get to it. So I'm not gonna write about any of them specifically now. There are a lot of soul and R&B covers from the well known to the very obscure, some reggae and classic blues tunes, Dylan and Van Morrison tracks, and a wildly diverse array of other songs. One of the more interesting subplots is how many of the tunes they played were very current at the time of these recordings.
This is not an unbiased production and isn't intended as an accurate historical representation of the band as a whole. These are my favorite versions of my favorite songs of the era, it's a mix I made for my own listening and that’s that. That means blues tunes and Merl originals are under-represented, and the Jazz Odyssey tunes are completely absent from this first, A-list mix. More blues tunes, and some of the soul-jazz style Merl originals, will come out in the “part 2, outtakes and alternate versions” mix which is forthcoming. It's another 20 tracks or so, about half songs omitted from this first release, and the rest are alternate versions of tracks represented here.
|Jazz Odyssey, baby|
I'm not claiming this to be any kind of definitive "best-of" mix. The criteria for that are subjective enough that I'm skeptical of that idea and it just seems like a lot of work. I do think it's pretty good. I listened to all the soundboard tapes from this era, which was super fun, and picked the songs I liked. I found anywhere from a few to several great versions of some songs, and for those I just kept running through 'em until I could pick a favorite. The audio quality of the recordings played a major tiebreaker role in a lot of those calls. As I mentioned above I'm going to upload a dozen or so of these alternate versions before long; some of them are spectacular. If you think you know a better version of one of these tracks,I'd love to hear about it. Leave details in comments, and preferably a link of some kind, a torrent or a direct upload or whatever works.
A minor caveat or two for the sensitive types
|Stop me before I skronk again|
Both musicians’ strengths greatly outweigh their flaws, at least in this context. The quality and frequency of Martin Fierro’s really high moments may be a revelation to some listeners. Merl wasn’t a notable soloist; his leads tended to be circular, wandering, or linear; not bad, but usually not building or developing too much either. But his beautifully warm sound and joyous interplay with Garcia define this band as much as any other factor.